Every year, the world emits over 36 billion tonnes of CO2, a potent greenhouse gas that has proven effects on the environment and the climate. In 1950, our total emissions were only 6 billion tonnes. Everybody from governments to businesses to individual homeowners are making changes to do their part to fight against climate change.
One of the primary combatants in this fight is renewable energy: wind, biomass, and perhaps most commonly, solar power.
How does solar energy reduce your carbon footprint?
Solar power, generated through commercially-available solar power PV systems, is one of the cleanest and most efficient ways to create electricity - whether that’s for a household, a business, a farm, or anywhere else that requires power.
Solar power uses the energy from the sun itself to create usable electricity, and is capable of powering anything the main grid can: lights, appliances, heaters, even an electric vehicle. And it does this without needing to burn coal, oil, gas or any other fossil fuels, meaning that it creates zero greenhouse gases through its everyday operation.
For most residential uses, solar power is used to supplement the energy that is drawn from the main grid via the local utility company. It essentially replaces it, not only cutting down on utility bills, but also reducing the number of fossil fuels burned to supply your energy needs.
More solar means fewer burned fossil fuels, and fewer burned fossil fuels means less carbon dioxide. Simple.
How much does solar energy reduce carbon emissions?
How much you could reduce your carbon footprint with solar depends on:
- How much energy you currently use
- How large your intended solar power system is
- How many batteries your solar power system (if any) will use
The bigger the solar system and the more batteries it has, the more solar power you’ll be able to generate and store. In turn, this means you’ll use less grid energy - some of which is generated from CO2-emitting fossil fuels.
The use of solar power effectively replaces the power that would otherwise be generated by fossil fuels. This instantly reduces your carbon footprint - by up to 80%, according to one study.
Does solar energy leave a carbon footprint?
Solar panels don’t create greenhouse gases as part of their operation like fossil fuels and other energy sources can.
However, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a carbon footprint at all.
Creating a solar panel is an energy-intensive process, requiring the mining and processing of raw materials (such as quartz), as well as the machines necessary to build the solar panels themselves. The same goes for the batteries and inverters that are standard with most solar power systems.
This process does create emissions - about 40g equivalent CO2 per kilowatt-hour of power generated at conservative estimates. To put this into perspective, coal generates approximately 1,000g of CO2 per kilowatt-hour, making it about 25 times more harmful than solar for the same amount of energy.
How long does it take for solar panels to become carbon neutral?
Solar panels generated some greenhouse gases as part of their construction, but they quickly ‘pay back’ that energy debt within just a few years of being installed.
A study from 2013 estimated that roof-top solar panels could offset enough carbon emissions in less than 2 years to become carbon neutral. Considering that almost a decade has passed since then and PV panels have only become more advanced, this payback time could have reduced even further.
Moreover, in the case of a quality, long-lasting panel like those ZEN Energy systems use, that same solar panel could have a further 25 years or more of generating power, completely CO2 free.
How can you reduce your carbon footprint even more with solar?
To really shrink your carbon footprint through solar, it’s imperative that you have not just ‘a’ solar power system, but ‘the right’ solar panel system for your needs.
Different energy demands, different roof types, different climates - it all makes a difference to the size and type of solar system that will help you fight back against climate change and use fewer harmful fossil fuels for your energy.
That’s why truly clean & green Kiwis rely on local experts to evaluate, install and maintain their solar PV systems. To start your journey towards carbon neutrality, get in touch with the team at ZEN Energy today.